New hand signal launched to fight modern slavery in construction

A new hand signal has been created in a bid to help fight modern slavery in the construction sector.

Launched by Stronger Together, the move is being supported by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Saint-Gobain, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

It comes after ‘various’ bodies identified construction as being ‘high-risk’ for modern slavery. Stronger Together explained that victims are often ‘hidden in plain sight’, with them commonly being unable to communicate due to threats and intimidation or through a lack of English.

As a result, the non-verbal signals have been launched, which Stronger Together said would allow victims to ‘discretely’ seek help without raising suspicion of placing themselves in danger.

Following a number of focus groups, the Hand SOS signal was selected. Originally launched by the Canadian Women’s Foundation as a simple, one-handed sign that can silently be used to indicate that help is needed.

Pamela Zielinski, construction programme manager at Stronger Together, said, “Imagine the unimaginable; you have been targeted and are now controlled by individuals who place little or no value on human life other than as a means to make money. You cannot voice the trauma and fear you experience on a daily basis perhaps because you can’t speak the language or simply because you fear being overheard by the wrong people. This hand signal may be your only chance.”

Kay Barnes, corporate social responsibility manager at CITB, added, “We are pleased to support the launch of this hand signal, which is a simple new tool to help raise awareness of modern slavery and empower those affected by it. We know from our own fraud investigations that modern slavery exists within construction, and we all need to work together to stamp it out.

“We would encourage everyone to read and share the free Stronger Together resources on their website and play their part in tackling this issue.”

Caroline Gumble, CIOB chief executive, commented, “CIOB’s work to raise awareness of modern slavery in construction and how it can be tackled started some years ago and continues with our support for this campaign. In the post-Brexit and post-pandemic period, there are many in construction with concerns that modern slavery may be on the increase so anything that might provide a route to support or safety for victims is to be welcomed. It’s also a useful opportunity to remind industry professionals of their role in helping to combat the problem and the signs of modern slavery to look out for.”

To support the introduction of the signal, Stronger Together has developed a range of free resources. To access them click here.